Q: What is the Pennsylvania rule on contributory / comparative negligence?
Hello, I wrote a brief summary of this on my blog, which I will copy and paste for your below; however, if you would like further explanation, feel free to contact me.
The general rule is that to recover damages for negligence resulting in death or injury to person, the fact that the plaintiff may have committed contributory negligence does not stop him/her from recovering where such negligence was not greater than the negligence of the defendant(s). Instead, any damages sustained by the plaintiff will be reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the plaintiff.
What does this mean? In Pennsylvania, if you are injured in an accident, you can recover monetary damages from a defendant as long as you are found to be no more than 50% liable for damages. If a plaintiff is found to be 50% (or less) liable, each defendant shall be liable for their proportionate total dollar amount awarded as damages.
Currently, Pennsylvania upholds joint and several liability. Under joint and several liability, an injured party may collect the entire award against any party found to be responsible for the accident. It then becomes the responsibility of the defendants to sort out their respective proportions of liability and payment. However, this aspect of the Pennsylvania civil justice system (and injury victim's civil rights) is currently under attack. Republicans in the State Legislature are trying to pass legislation (titled the "Fair Share" Act) that would do away with joint and several liability. If this happens, defendants in many lawsuits only would pay the percentage of damages for which they are found liable - leaving innocent victims of their accidents high and dry - while saving insurance companies money.
If you have been injured, and have questions about how the comparative fault system works in Pennsylvania, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney to advise you on how these laws will impact your own individual and unique case.
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